I was shocked when I looked at the calendar and realized it’s been three months already. I was supposed to come back with lots of publication-type-things to unveil! I have collected a lot of writing-related items and ideas, including new folders, new notebooks, and a commitment to writing by hand (used to do it all the time as a teenager and I think I had more fun writing that way.) 😊 I got a book of writing prompts, that I picked up for $2 in a resale shop, and a brand new workspace complete with a lovely organizer set that has each item in a different pattern in shades of blue. I had initially decided not to include four of my books (Harrisons, Bellevere, MerrySummer, and Ryan and Essie) in the new time-travel magnet because I could not think of any continuing storylines for those characters. But I got a load of new ideas as I was organizing the china between our little white cabinet and our hutch. It was a busy afternoon's work as all the china needed to be taken out of cardboard boxes and unwrapped out of newspaper. So I thought about stories while I worked and those four books quietly found a place to belong.
This summer I spent a lot of time working in the house, reorganizing and renovating it. Writing fell by the wayside as a complete restructuring of our living space became a priority. My sister and I woke up one day in late April and realized we had never adjusted our home to accommodate two adults living alone, no children and just one small cat. Our changes had been gradual before, still keeping lots of old habits, as two sisters left the house and our parents moved down the road into our grandfather’s house. But except for some stuff that left the house when these people did, our structure remained the same on a daily basis. We were occupied with routines and never looked at items we had placed years before because they had always been there and we don’t spend most of each day thinking about household physical objects. But this year we saw that we hadn’t caught up to where our lives are really at. We were living in a house that was for a different family at a different time of life.
For instance we moved two musical instruments (our piano and also one of those huge old Conn electric organs that someone gave to us years ago so they could get rid of it) out of our bedrooms where they were taking up large amounts of space. From the sound of "piano and organ" you might think our house is sizable, but it is SMALL and that's the reason they hijacked our bedrooms. They had been put there to keep them safe as there was literally no place for them anywhere else, but honestly it’s been a decade since the youngest of us was under 13 and nobody is going to be kicking, scratching, or crayoning on these instruments now. I was especially glad to get a chest of drawers and my sister to get a desk, now there was actually space to put these things in our rooms! In fact, I made my new motto be “STOP keeping stuff in my room for later, to keep it safe. My room is MY room, all mine!” 😊 We also discovered a lot of gaps as we made the house better organized—for instance, we never kept bathrobes in the bathroom although there are hooks for them, because our house used to be very crowded so we kept our clothes near where we slept. But as we looked around the house we saw it was virtually empty these days. In fact we even have a SPARE bedroom now! (My parent’s room, vacated after they moved out.) We’d been using it as a sort of garage for junk we didn’t have time to go through. So we made time this summer and are turning the room into a den. Having suddenly much more space in the house also means we can create a small dining room area adjacent to the kitchen. We had no room for this before because the only table was used for both schoolwork and food preparation. I look forward to hanging some china plates on the wall.
Anyway, in the midst of all that, I got a nice computer and tidied up massive amounts of stuff from my desk (a lot of the stuff was stashed there to keep it for later and didn’t even belong to me.) I’m getting all set to write some more. I also uploaded about 18 months worth of new reviews to my book reviews blog, as I tend to get behind on that aspect of my website, and I redid the back covers for my books because when I finally got them out of a crowded closet box and onto a bookshelf I noticed too many of the spines were similar and too many of them were black. But I’d never put them in a bookcase before, so I hadn’t noticed. I like the new prompt book I got because writing prompts have always annoyed me. They are everywhere, often given as links or emails. But I don’t have a place to write the story immediately once I see the prompt. This book has a page below each prompt for writing. I’ve never used prompts before, but I’ve been so distracted lately I’m going to need them to get back in the writing game as I start the time-travel magnet.
AND I am going to send out the newsletter only when I have an announcement about a new book, a sale on older books, or other stuff like that. That way you’ll know when you open my email that you’re getting something big and that I’m expecting action on it, instead of you just receiving and languidly browsing a stream of updates about my life. Many authors both blog and send newsletters, but they often don’t combine them as I’ve been doing. Sending only every 2-3 months when there is something to announce is what I’ve seen other authors do more frequently than sending out constant blog posts to a newsletter. They might send these to a blog audience but not double it with a newsletter audience. So that is what I will switch to as well.
Until my next announcement, best wishes to all of you!
I mentioned in my last newsletter that I'm really busy these days. Not to go into particulars, but getting lots of newsletter posts written and published last year while I was also writing and publishing Celestine was a strain because it's hard for me to find time and proper environment to write. This is not an excuse or a subtle way of signing off--the old "I'm just so busy" phrase is a catch-all for gently eliminating any socializing that has become an unnecessary part of your life. Let's admit it, we've all done this when we have too many things on our plate and need to cut back. It's not lying to say we're busy. It's quite truthful. We are busy and that means we need to prioritize some things over others. But "I'm busy" sounds much kinder than "I'm deprioritizing you" which is why this excuse is so ubiquitous!
This blog post isn't such an excuse. I am not deprioritizing my newsletter subscribers because without you I can't share my book concepts, bounce off ideas, spout about reviews and reader/author culture, and talk shop generally. (Well, that's not technically accurate. I share a lot with my sister, Sister 4, who still lives with me at home.) But having a close relative listen to you, while invaluable emotional support, isn't quite like a newsletter or beta reader circle because she's always so loving. This type of support is crucial, and without it authors will wither up, but authors also need a sampling--or warning--of what potential readers, strangers, people stumbling into your genre by mistake, and those looking for faults in presentation and editing might be examining in your work.
But right now time taken writing blog posts is time taken away from writing books. And I've got to get back to writing--the reader magnet I planned, the series of time-travel stories for sale on my website, and then later books. I need to return to my story set in Scotland (which has moved from a historical story to a contemporary comedy with some romance) and then there's that epic fantasy book I've always wanted to get back to. Plus there is The Prince's Ball, a rework of an old manuscript with so much extra material that never made it into the story we call Millhaven Castle. I've floated this idea around for years, but never quite found an opportune slot for publishing it as other projects got in the way. In short, I have a lot of things in the queue like lava in a volcano when the vent is blocked.
So I'm going to take the next 3 months off from all online activity outside of a once-weekly post on FB just to show I'm still alive. Could be longer than 3, but that depends on how much new writing I get done in that 3 months. If I get a lot done, I'll come back with new announcements. If I need more time, then the online vacation will stretch until I'm ready to return. This hiatus includes my blog and newsletter as well. I am going to hibernate and write, write, write. If you want to follow me on FB, feel free to. I no longer use my official author page, though it still exists, because it so boring and clunky to toggle 2 FB accounts and FB won't let most people see my author page posts anyway. Here's a link to my personal profile where you can Follow me or you can add me as a friend if you prefer. I confirm requests from women. Men--just send me a message with your request, saying that you are from my newsletter and that's how you found me. If you're already on my FB, good for you. You are a valued friend. :)
In a few months I will have a lot more to share with you!
If you're an author, you'll hear a lot of advice about making the majority of your books link together into a series. Preferably a long series, perhaps with connected novellas, prequels, and other perks. The reasons usually given are: that it's honestly easier to keep writing in a world that's already been created, spinning out more stories in that world, than to invent new worlds and characters from scratch every time; and also that it gives readers a feeling of continuity. They know pretty much what they are going to get from you because it's all in the same world, whereas if you do lots of standalone projects, lovely and unique as each might be, readers aren't sure they will have the same feelings about your new book as about your last one because it's simply 100% different.
Ease of writing--what I call "lazily churning out"--books isn't appealing for me, nor should it be to anyone who is thinking carefully. Readers can always tell when an author has put in a thorough effort and as a series or loose set of interconnected books, shorts, and prequels drags on they will recognize that dialed-in feeling. I read an interesting article recently, when I was looking up behind-the-scenes on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (a great old western, by the way.) When I scrolled down, I saw bits of an interview with two actors in the series Yellowstone, about what it was like to work with Kevin Costner. Kevin Costner has been around a long time. He made some of his famous movies when I was a kid. So by now he has been a household name for years. The others said they were surprised by how hardworking and humble he was. He never treated the production in a cavalier way, he was never arrogant, and he never expected to do less because he was a big star. The quality of the work remained as important to him as it was when he first started acting. The article clearly portrayed their respect for this man.
So interconnecting my books because it's sheerly easier to get readers involved in the same world, with minimal effort from me, is definitely not my goal. BUT there is a good reason to link my books more closely. The reason is not author comfort, it's reader comfort. I've bounced all over the place in many genres and while I have certainly taken the time to work hard on each book, readers might not be sure what they're getting. (Other than that it is a quality story, of course.) Exactly what quality story, though? In a time when about 90% of books are a burn experience for readers--and trust me, I read a lot because I love books and I've been burned many, many times--trust is really important. (It's also true that many times I have loved a book I read, obviously, or I would not still be writing or reading now!) I've been mulling for a while now about how to connect my stories better. I do have one trilogy, but the rest are all stand-alones in different genres. How could I link them? The best way is of course to write a reader magnet--a story meant to be given away as a sample--because I need one anyway. In the past I've given away my actual books in place of a dedicated magnet and that's not a great strategy.
For several months I've been planning to write a new story to be used promotionally that will link all my stories together through the element of time travel. Because I have historical eras I'll need a way to get those characters to interact with modern ones and since I have science fiction books, a character in one of them can find a time-travel machine. Time-travel also makes it possible to alter the ages of the characters so they can be older or younger or even meet an older version of themselves. The concept is for a few selected characters from each book to bump into each other using time-travel and then have an adventure together, with a small appendix in the back that lists which books they came from so you can read more about a character you really enjoyed in the sample. I'm also planning additional stories using the same idea (episodic adventures for my characters in time travel) to be sold as exclusive content on my website and I hope to add other products besides fiction into the webstore.
I have been so busy I keep putting it off. I haven't found the time to just sit down and write a story these days. But I'm going to get this story written soon, so consider this announcement a prophecy of sorts. I will put up a short-term link for you to get the story when it's done. Its main purpose is to attract newsletter subscribers, after all, and to start readers off with a linked, connected view of all my stories and how they fit together. The download will expire quickly though so you'll want to snap it up when you open that email.
And there will be more updates.
Young Adult Fiction Writer
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